Harvard University fielded the world champion collegiate debate team in 2014. But when they went into the Eastern Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison, they were at something of a loss for words. Not because the students couldn’t believe the conditions in the prison compared to their cozy dormitory digs in Cambridge, but because they couldn’t believe their opponents. The Harvard students didn’t go to prison for a sociology class or to study the criminal justice system up close, they went to debate. And they lost.
The prison team was extremely well-prepared — the prisoners take courses taught by professors from the nearby elite Bard College. Harvard was gracious in defeat. “There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend,” the teams’s Facebook page reports. “And we are incredibly thankful to Bard and the eastern New York correctional facility for the work they do and for organizing this event.”